[imagefield_assist|fid=9072|preset=bdynako-preview|lightbox=true|title=GM Gata Kamsky, center, hopes to repeat as U.S. Champion one month before his Candidates Match in May.|desc=|link=none|align=center|width=601|height=400]
SAINT LOUIS, February 15, 2011 -- All but two spots have been confirmed for the 2011 U.S. Championship, scheduled to be held concurrently with the U.S. Women’s Championship in Saint Louis April 13-28, and two significant surprises have helped shape a dynamic field that will compete for more than $166,000 in prizes.
Two-time U.S. Champion GM Hikaru Nakamura, currently ranked number one in the U.S. by rating, declined his invitation to play in this year’s championship, citing a desire to focus on working toward his ultimate goal of one day winning the World Championship.
The other surprise: GM Yasser Seirawan, a four-time U.S. Champion and former World Championship contender, has accepted a wild card invitation. Seirawan, who hasn’t played a major tournament since the 2003 “Kings and Queens” match in China, cited two reasons for his interest.
“First, it is a great event, and I wanted to thank the good folks at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis for all their wonderful work,” he said. “Secondly, I got bored watching the young lions at play and felt the urge to join them.”
Reigning U.S. Champion Gata Kamsky, who is scheduled to take on Bulgarian GM Veselin Topolav in a World Championship Candidate’s Match in May, will defend his crown. Kamksy said he felt the strong field at this year’s U.S. Championship would serve as an excellent primer for his match against Topalov the following month.
The second wild card invitation was accepted by the GM-in-residence at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis (CCSCSL), Ben Finegold. Ten players will compete for the final two invitations to the 2011 U.S. Championship at the Saint Louis Invitational, a round-robin tournament scheduled to be held at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis March 4-9.
In addition to the two invitations, the players will compete for more than $10,000 in prizes.
The 10 players competing for the final two spots are as follows:
- GM Alejandro Ramirez
- GM Gregory Kaidanov
- GM Joel Benjamin
- GM Julio Becerra
- GM Eugene Perelshteyn
- GM Ray Robson
- GM Melikset Khachiyan
- GM Jesse Kraai
- IM Michael Brooks
- FM Darwin Yang
The Saint Louis Invitational will overlap the Bill Wright Saint Louis Open, a strong open tournament that will be held at the CCSCSL March 4-6 and will feature more than $7,300 in prizes.
The field for the 2011 U.S. Championship is as follows:
- GM Gata Kamsky
- GM Alex Onischuk
- GM Varuzhan Akobian
- GM Yasser Seirawan
- GM Yury Shulman
- GM Jaan Ehlvest
- GM Alex Stripunsky
- GM Larry Christiansen
- GM Robert Hess
- GM Alex Shabalov
- GM Alexander Ivanov
- GM-elect Sam Shankland
- GM Ben Finegold
- IM Daniel Naroditsky
- TBD: Winner of Saint Louis Invitational
- TBD: Runner-up of Saint Louis Invitational
IM Irina Krush, who received an automatic invitation to the 2011 U.S. Championship for winning the 2010 U.S. Women’s Championship, declined her invitation and instead elected to defend her title at the 2011 U.S. Women’s Championship. The field of eight women will be playing for a total prize fund of more than $60,000 and is as follows:
- IM Irina Krush
- IM Anna Zatonskih
- IM Rusadan Goletiani
- WGM Camilla Baginskaite
- WIM Tatev Abrahamyan
- WIM Sabina Foisor
- FM Alisa Melekhina
- WIM Iryna Zenyuk
In addition to the intense tournament action offered by these two prestigious events, tournament organizers will once again host a $10,000 Blitz tournament April 25 that will feature players from both the U.S. Championship and the U.S. Women’s Championship.
Access to the tournament is free for annual members of the CCSCSL, or an all-access pass can be purchased for $100, which includes the following:
- A ticket to the Opening Ceremony and Closing Ceremony ($50 value)
- Access to all rounds and playoffs ($140 value)
- A year membership to the CCSCSL ($80 value)
Individual tickets to the Opening and Closing Ceremonies are available for $25 apiece, and individual rounds can be accessed for only $10/day, which includes refreshments, access to live grandmaster commentary and access to the tournament playing hall.
For more information, please visit www.saintlouischessclub.org.